Learning to be a contented, weaned child

This Psalm has arrested my attention on more than one occasion. It's significance has resounded clearly in recent years. I imagine I will never graduate from this Psalm. I don't want to matriculate from its humble plea.

My heart is not proud, Lord,
    my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
    or things too wonderful for me.

But I have calmed and quieted myself,
    I am like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child I am content.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord
    both now and forevermore.

As one of the Songs of Ascent - the Jewish book of prayer-songs for singing on the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for one of the annual festivals - this Psalm of David reveals a tender heart. This is not the adulterous, murderous, mighty King David. This is the humbled, contented David who has encountered the severe mercy of the LORD - the David who has learned to journey through the Wall and the dark night of the soul.

I'm currently participating in an eight-week class led by Don Follis at Stone Creek Church called Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. The material is written by Pete & Geri Scazzero, who claim that mature discipleship in the way of Jesus is not possible without facing our own emotional health.

Tonight, for week three, we reflected on "The Wall", or the "dark night of the soul", as described by St. John of the Cross. Any Christian walking by faith will face "The Wall" - and likely, more than once! Hooray!

It's a period of time where we may face tragedy, trauma, difficulties and trials in conjunction with an extended period of turmoil, longing, restlessness or testing in our relationship with God. It's a time often marked by a sense of distance with God; his presence seems quite elusive; we doubt his goodness.

Don spoke tonight about Mother Teresa's years-long "dark night of the soul." Her private journal entries detailing her feeling of abandonment by God can now be found in Come, Be My Light. Some say she's not worthy of "sainthood" due to the chasm of God's immanence she experienced; others of us say her faithfulness amid that longing and testing actually reveal the depth of her faith while she continued to serve and Christ's love and mercy among the poor of Calcutta.

I've experienced my own "Wall" for the past few years. I'm not prepared to detail that journey in this entry, but suffice to say that a Spiritual Director shared this metaphor which has been a helpful picture: a mother weaning her child from her milk.

When we journey "through the Wall" (we may never get "through" in our own perspective this side of Resurrection, because we can only "control" so much, right?), God is weaning us from the pleasures and dependency upon the simple, ready-made nourishment of people and things which have been helpful in our early sanctification (i.e. discipleship) but which we must learn to detach from in order to grow as a mature man or woman who savors Christ above all.

Scazzero points to four discipleship lessons for our emotional health and maturity that God delights to bring as a fruit of the Wall:
Greater level of brokenness, Deeper appreciation of God's mystery, More ability to wait upon the Lord, Greater detachment from lesser things

We see this "weaning" and struggle amid the "Wall" in Paul's letters in many places (see 2 Corinthians), not the least of which are his words to the Philippian church: "I have learned the secret of being content; whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."

One can almost hear David's Psalm echoing in the distance.


Popular Posts